If there is one art form that naturally inspires me, it is sculpture. There is something evocative and moving about sculptures that transcends mere art. One such sculpture work example is that of globally acclaimed, South African artist, Dylan Lewis. While I have long heard about the beauty behind Lewis’ powerful sculptures – after my visit to the artist’s incredible Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, in Stellenbosch, I feel spellbound by his work.
Dylan Lewis: An Acclaimed Artist of the Animal Form
Especially famous for his animalistic sculptures, Dylan Lewis’s work is breathtaking and lifelike. Nothing quite prepares you for the almost tender, yet powerfully real wildness his sculptures exhibit.
Be it the sleeping leopard, resting on a tree branch or the lion and lioness, coupled together proudly. There is something innately lifelike and noble about every one. This is especially apparent when exploring the artist’s incredible sculpture garden.
Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, Stellenbosch: Paradise Revealed off Paradyskloof Road
Tucked away in Stellenbosch on Mulberry Farm, just off Paradyskloof Road, you find the breathtakingly scenic Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden. Here, Lewis has taken his sculptures, created over the years, and dotted them almost enchantingly around the garden.
With some 39 attractions carefully set out on a beautifully illustrated map (available at reception for visitors), exploring this seven-hectare garden requires two hours’ minimum in my view. Not because you can’t explore it in less time. More because, once you enter its, at first, unassuming farm drive, you won’t want to leave.
Note: If you are pressed for time, though – the two-kilometre-long garden route can be covered in 45 minutes to an hour.
Everything from Intimidating Shamanic Figures to Noble Big Cats
Although Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden is open five days a week (Tuesday to Saturday), visits are strictly by appointment only. However, arranging a visit is effortless, as the Dylan Lewis team are exceptionally welcoming and helpful.
Finding the garden is relatively easy using Google Maps and once inside, you feel locked within an isolated garden paradise, far from everything else.
What I like about the garden’s appointment-only nature is that this ensures visits are never crowded. This offers a unique garden experience. Particularly, as, apart from near the reception and tastefully set out coffee shop, The Old Storeroom, you scarcely see other humans.
It’s just you and the wildness within the garden. Sculptures dramatically punctuate every inch of Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. Perhaps what I love most about their layout is how they are at times, both subtle and larger-than-life in nature. One moment you are next to a colossal male shamanic figure, next you are alongside a small wild cat.
Lose Yourself in a Garden Labyrinth
Dylan Lewis has grouped the sculptures naturally, as if, over the years, they have chosen where they will be set. So, although there are sculpture groupings – everything from Big Cats to Monumental Fragments and Shamanic Figures – the garden has a wonderfully free feel to it, as if removed from all man-made confines.
In essence, the garden forms a kind of labyrinth. However, the map offers a numbered sequence recommended for your garden exploration.
This allows guests to see the artist’s full vision, while also feeling the garden’s full impact. At times, your individual garden journey takes you on an intimate, occasionally solitary, journey through the tranquil garden spaces.
Untamed Cape Beauty and Stunning Sculptures Exist at Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden
The initial garden project began in 2009, when Lewis hired an excavator and began creating the contours that would one day form this seven-hectare garden paradise. In some ways, the garden – which was carefully shaped by the artist – is one of his largest sculptures thus far.
While the garden peaks from July to September, there is no question that this is a garden to visit year-round. My visit came at the start of winter, on a beautifully balmy, almost warm day, and it was sublime.
Everything from the vibrant aloes and lingering autumn hues to the tender heather hill, make this garden feel as wild and visually stunning as the sculptures that inhabit it.
One of the things that really jumped out at me is how, although influenced by Japanese gardens and Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic, this garden is true to the Cape wilderness in every way. Everything from the ancient oaks to the rustic outbuildings, aloe garden and fynbos-strewn hills speak of the Cape in its truest form.
This is keenly influenced by the indigenous flora, like the fynbos, ericas and different buchu species, that were selected for the garden’s grounds.
Honestly, even the parking lot, situated above the garden and in-house coffee shop, offers the most incredible views out across Stellenbosch’s rolling farmlands – and beyond.
On a clear day, from the Pavilion and Upper Terraces, you can even see Table Mountain, Cape Point and False Bay’s oceans.
An Enhanced Garden Experience
I also noted how certain complimentary goods are offered to enhance your garden experience. These include the beautiful, detailed map, dainty, Jane Austen-esque parasol (please return them), sunscreen and hand sanitiser. Both this and the elegant, artful bathrooms add a touch of refined quality to visits.
I also love how the professional Dylan Lewis team are expert and well-versed in their knowledge. Everyone, from the security guard at the main entrance to the coffee shop attendant, is excellent to deal with.
Guests cannot bring food or drinks into the garden. So The Old Storeroom coffee shop is your perfect stop. I only popped into The Old Storeroom at the end of my visit but I was really impressed by it.
Here, alongside additional coffee table books and miniature artworks, guests can buy everything from refreshing Uber Flavour ice tea to hot beverages and delicious mini cakes. While the setting, with cosy indoor seating and outdoor benches overlooking the garden, is relaxed and lovely.
Baked goods are made on-site; these are some of the most delicious I have had. The flavours are amazing, so food and drink is of a great standard too. You can order goods for sit-down or to-go, as needed.
Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden: Mesmerising, Yet Peaceful
Perhaps one of the things that you feel most when visiting Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is the contrast between rustic, rural farm life and edgier, artistic creativity. Yet, somehow, the two worlds – one wild, one tamed – blend seamlessly together.
This is echoed by the way the garden lies between two worlds: the modern, lush suburbs of leafy Stellenbosch on one side and the unchecked mountain wilderness where leopards still roam on the other.
The next thing you notice about Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is the prevailing sense of peacefulness that enfolds this garden. While many of Lewis’ sculptures have a definite air of emotional conflict and pain etched in them – especially the human figures and contorted torsos – the garden extends a layer of gentleness to them.
Even the most intimidating sculpture – like the forbidding guardian outside the secluded Grotto – draws empathy and understanding from the viewer. We all know psychological pain and internal struggles. Just as we all possess both dark and light inside of us and that, if anything, feels tellingly real and true to life.
You cannot look at these sculptures and not feel something… even if just a sad or pensive emotion.
Garden Sculpture Groupings and Other Rotating Artist Exhibits
With 39 points carefully set out on the map, it is impossible for me to note each and every attraction or highlight in Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. And even if I could – I wouldn’t.
Part of the magic of Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is experiencing and feeling it for yourself. So if you get a little lost along the way, that’s okay too. Because you will end up where you need to be.
I will, however, note that the garden sculptures are grouped accordingly:
- Birds (Emblems of Freedom)
- African Animals (Primal Wilderness)
- Wild Cats (Wild Symbols)
- Fragmented Leopard Torsos (Breaking Apart)
- Early Female Figures (Forbidden Forms)
- Fragmented Human Torsos (Beauty in Brokenness)
- Female Shamanic Figures (Dark Nature)
- Male Shamanic Figures (Rising Masculinity)
- Monumental Fragments (A New Consciousness)
- Recent Work (Integrating the Untamed)
For more on the sculpture groupings and their inspiration or meanings, please see here or refer to the garden map. It is fascinating to learn about what inspired or guided the meanings and forms behind each sculpture and subsequent grouping.
Another important thing to note is that certain sections, like the grassy Upper Terraces and imposing Pavilion (designed by architect Enrico Daffonchio), contain rotating artwork done by other talented artists.
At the time of my visit, these included pieces like the totem-like Icarus Wish by Simon Max Bannister or Artefacts of Belonging by Jessica Storm Kapp.
My Personal Garden Highlights
Every inch of Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden – from the rustic Old Studio (Dylan Lewis’ original studio) to the amazing animal and human sculpture groupings are incredible.
Still, I encountered a few garden sections and sculptures that stood out to me personally.
Garden Highlights I Enjoyed:
- The Original Garden Gate (This is both a tribute to the artist’s former Cape cottage and a symbolic gateway into the garden.)
- The Central Lawn and River Bush Willow Grove (Both are extremely beautiful. They are also your first real encounter with Dylan Lewis’s feminine forms.)
- The Pavilion (This award-winning structure is absolutely stunning. Best of all, it offers the most panoramic garden and distant mountain views.)
- The Old Orchard and The Wild Olive Grove (Here, attractions include the old cottage and the artist’s self-portrait bust, found amid the wild olive grove.)
- The Stepping Stones and Weir (This is fun to walk across but it’s also symbolic of entering a mythological space.)
- The Heather Hill (This is one of the most naturally beautiful parts of the garden. With the Old Studio and pond behind you and the purple hill before you, this hill section is beautiful.)
- The Lake (What can I say about one of the most gorgeous lake settings you will find anywhere? It is a visual joy in every way. I also love the wild birds and cheerful coots who glide along the water.
Other Garden Highlights I Loved:
- The Pepper Tree Grove and Environs (Not the most naturally beautiful part of the garden. But with the leopard, Lewis’ totem animal, it makes an impression.)
- The Aloe Garden (This is arguably my favourite part of the garden, despite my literal aloe allergy. While I was careful not to brush against any plants here, it is one of the most vibrant parts of the garden.)
- Monumental Fragmented Forms (Of the colossal, larger-than-life sculptures, these were perhaps my favourite. To create the torso, Lewis even had to crawl into the figure’s interior…)
- The Grotto and Grotto Wild Olive Grove (Perhaps the most intimidating of sculptures for me, this male figure, reminiscent of Pan, watches over the concealed grotto entrance. The grotto itself is earthy and fascinating to enter into.)
- Scarlatti Memorial and Old Studio Viewing Point (As a serious cat lover, I was touched to find the Scarlatti sculpture. This is in memory of Dylan Lewis’s beloved studio cat, Scarlatti. Resident for 18 years, Scarlatti also served as a model for the artist on several occasions. The Old Studio Viewing Point, meanwhile, offers a lovely view of the garden and is the perfect place to both begin and end your journey at.)
More Information on Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden
Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden can be visited strictly by prior appointment only, from Tuesday to Saturday.
General opening hours for the garden are from 09:00 am to 17:00 pm, with last entry at 15:30pm. The Old Storeroom, meanwhile, is open until 16:30pm. On certain days and public holidays though, hours vary. For a detailed breakdown of these dates and times, please see here.
Garden entry fees are currently R180 (per adult); R120 (for students and pensioners); and free to children under 18. Both cash and card payments are accepted.
Note: The garden pathways have a moderate gradient over gravel and grass and there are some outdoor stone steps. In light of this, the garden is perhaps not conducive to pram- or wheelchair-access.
Flat, comfortable walking shoes are advised. I would also bring sunscreen and a hat if it is sunny out, as large chunks of the garden are exposed to the sun. Otherwise, make use of one of the available parasols.
Also, Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is not pet-friendly; only service dogs are permitted into the garden.
Guests are welcome to explore the garden at leisure, with their complimentary map. However, if you would like a guided tour of the garden, this can be arranged.
Private tour pricing and information:
- R1 100 (1-10 people);
- R100 per person (for 11-25 people);
- Tour pricing excludes the standard garden fees;
- A non-refundable, advance booking fee of R1000 is required to confirm your tour. The balance is paid on the day of your visit. In the case of bad weather or circumstances outside your control, tours can be rescheduled to a more suitable date;
- Privately guided tours run for 1.5 hours and are subject to guide availability.
Private Functions, Photography Permissions and Artwork Purchases
Functions can also be hosted at Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden. For more information on this, please contact Gabby: email@example.com.
If you would like to purchase some of the selected, available artwork for sale, please email firstname.lastname@example.org – or visit the Old Studio for more information.
Also, please note that non-commercial photography is permitted when visiting the garden. For commercial photography (like this blog post) or media enquiries, please contact Gabby: email@example.com.
Dylan Lewis lends itself well to social distancing. Additionally, masks are required and there are strict hygiene protocols in place.
How It Rated
Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden is an incredible experience for all to enjoy. I saw everyone from elderly guests to young children eagerly exploring the garden with equal relish.
For myself, this is one of my most memorable outings to date in Stellenbosch. Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, which I effortlessly rate 10/10 overall, is certainly a world-class garden gem that we are fortunate to find so close to the Mother City.
A Word of Thanks
I would like to extend my special thanks to Gabby Vurgarellis and the whole team at Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden who hosted me for this review experience.
I loved every minute spent at this wonderful sculpture garden and cannot recommend a visit to this unique sculpture garden highly enough.
For more information on Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden, please contact: +27 (021) 880 0054 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org to book your visit.
Please note: Studio and garden visits are strictly by appointment-only.
Once you have booked a visit, you can find them for yourself at Dylan Lewis Studio and Sculpture Garden, Mulberry Farm, Paradyskloof Road, Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.
For more information, please visit their website.
Author: Tamlyn Ryan
Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust – Travel Writing and Photography, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. Despite having a national diploma in Journalism and working as a content writer by day, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.
Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.